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Ninety years of search and rescue

Sam Milligan in 2015. PHOTO/FILE


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Wairarapa Search and Rescue Organisation (Inc) treasurer, Sam Milligan, remembers when it took three or four people just to get their communications equipment to the company bases in the hills.

Half a century later, and things have changed considerably.

“There’s been changes in technology of course — that has all changed dramatically since I started,” Mr Milligan said.

That isn’t so surprising considering he joined the organisation “about 45 years ago”, and is sure he is one of the oldest remaining members.

Mr Milligan has been with the organisation for about half of its entire existence, and on September 23 they will be celebrating their 90th year with a reunion dinner.

“If you look at the communications equipment we have got now, it’s state-of-the-art stuff about the size of a pack of cigarettes,” he said.

“In the old days, the radios were big and they required car batteries to power them.”

The public are welcome to head to the organisation’s base — near Hood Aerodrome — during September 23 to see a display of equipment that has been used throughout the generations.

Registrations will open at 10am.

In the afternoon proceedings will shift to Solway Park, where there will be a guest speaker, auction, and an audio/visual display.

“The first meeting of the group was in 1927,” Mr Milligan said.

“At that first meeting, they were talking about a search they had just completed, so they’d probably already been going on a year or two, or even more.

“A lot of the younger ones won’t know a lot about what’s gone on in the past.”

The organisation was originally known as the ‘Masterton Search Party Committee’, before being renamed the ‘Wairarapa Search and Rescue Organisation’ in 1955.

In 1997, the ‘incorporated’ was added to complete the name being used today.

Mr Milligan was a keen tramper and hunter when he was younger, and it led to his involvement in a couple of searches.

He ended up on the organisation’s committee, and had been there ever since, he said.

There were already over 80 people confirmed for the dinner, but they were hopeful of reaching the “magic 100”.

As for the 100th reunion in 10 years’ time, Mr Milligan said he would love to attend if he’s “still around”, but definitely won’t be taking on the organisational responsibilities.

“I won’t be doing any organising for that one, but if it’s on and I’m still about, it’d definitely be nice to go.”


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